ADHD is Real and I Have It

Comments 27

I’ve always been this way, so I never bothered to consider something might be wrong.

It’s not that I procrastinate ALL the time. Often, it’s just because I forget. Sometimes I mark the calendar and write reminder notes and set alerts on my phone. And I still forget.

Sometimes I forget to pay a bill.

Sometimes I forget birthdays.

Sometimes I forget to return a phone call.

Sometimes I schedule two things on the same day at the same time.

Sometimes I don’t remember to do the same thing for several days in a row.

Sometimes I put things off and forget about them and then something bad happens, like my natural gas gets shut off or my auto insurance lapses.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think I was intentionally trying to self-sabotage. As if I prefer when my life is a stressful emergency.

I always thought it was something I’d outgrow. I believed natural maturation would work out many of these little incidents that sometimes cause much bigger problems.

Why I Think Know I Have ADHD

A clinical psychologist several states away was reading some of the stories I write here when it became clear to her that I most likely have ADHD, and like many adults, have gone through life undiagnosed.

You see, when the only thing you know is what goes on inside your own head, it’s impossible to understand how others think and feel and experience life. But this doctor has spent her entire professional career talking to, and working with, people like me. So she knew right away.

She just wanted me to come to the same conclusion on my own. She sent me a few things to read.

This ADHD test for adults was one of the first things to get my attention. Answering “yes” to 15 of them is a big ADHD red flag. I said yes to all but one. And even that’s a maybe.

  1. I have difficulty getting organized.
  2. When given a task, I usually procrastinate rather than doing it right away.
  3. I work on a lot of projects, but can’t seem to complete most of them.
  4. I tend to make decisions and act on them impulsively — like spending money, getting sexually involved with someone, diving into new activities, and changing plans.
  5. I get bored easily.
  6. No matter how much I do or how hard I try, I just can’t seem to reach my goals.
  7. I often get distracted when people are talking; I just tune out or drift off.
  8. I get so wrapped up in some things I do that I can hardly stop to take a break or switch to doing something else.
  9. I tend to overdo things even when they’re not good for me — like compulsive shopping, drinking too much, overworking, and overeating.
  10. I get frustrated easily and I get impatient when things are going too slowly.
  11. My self-esteem is not as high as that of others I know.
  12. I need a lot of stimulation from things like action movies and video games, new purchases, being among lively friends, driving fast or engaging in extreme sports.
  13. I tend to say or do things without thinking, and sometimes that gets me into trouble.
  14. I’d rather do things my own way than follow the rules and procedures of others.
  15. I often find myself tapping a pencil, swinging my leg, or doing something else to work off nervous energy.
  16. I can feel suddenly depressed when I’m separated from people, projects or things that I like to be involved with.
  17. I see myself differently than others see me, and when someone gets angry with me for doing something that upset them I’m often very surprised.
  18. Even though I worry a lot about dangerous things that are unlikely to happen to me, I tend to be careless and accident prone.
  19. Even though I have a lot of fears, people would describe me as a risk taker.
  20. I make a lot of careless mistakes.
  21. I have blood relatives who suffer from ADD, depression, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse.

Another Eureka Moment

I was reading a book about male-female relationships when I had my first major Ah-ha! moment. I was reading stories about common fights and communication breakdowns between spouses, and I realized it wasn’t just my wife and I that have these problems. It was EVERYBODY. It makes you feel better when you realize you’re not the only one. Moreover, this book was explaining to me the evolutionary reasons why men are as they are and women are as they are, and how the two styles (when both parties are unaware of them) cause friction in relationships and often lead to divorce.

It fundamentally changed me on the inside. I finally knew something important and believed I could be the spouse she needed. But it was so broken. I couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

This ADHD thing? It’s EXACTLY like that all over again.

Everything I read screams at me: THIS IS THE REASON.

It’s been hard to stomach as I consider the ramifications.

What if I’d known at a much younger age?

What if I’d begun to manage it years ago?

How much better might my marriage have been?

How much further might my career have advanced?

How many more friends might I have kept?

People with ADHD have trouble managing friendships and staying in touch with people.

When my wife first left, I latched on to all my friends because I felt like dying and I just wanted to be around people I cared about and who cared about me in return. As time went on and I went through several stages of healing post-divorce, I lost touch with many friends. When you’re in your mid-thirties, everyone is busy and many have kids. You have to plan several days, often weeks, in advance if you want to see certain people.

I have never planned anything weeks in advance in my entire life. I used to think I preferred spontaneity. But really it’s a stress trigger. I can barely handle everything that needs done today. How can I possibly think about four weeks from now? Four weeks from now is a figment of my imagination.

People with ADHD have trouble with marriage.

Being pleasant and kind-hearted isn’t enough when your spouse thinks you don’t love or respect her because you forget everything, or mindlessly do things that suggest her feelings don’t matter. People with ADHD have trouble with time management, with organization, with financial planning and management, and cleaning the home.

I was reading this article in ADDitude Magazine, and this quote from a frustrated wife totally hit home, because she could have said it about me and my ex-wife.

“We would be late for an appointment, and he would be leisurely doing things when we should have been rushing out the door,” recalls Patricia, who lives with Chris and their three-year-old, Gabriella, in West Chicago, Illinois. “He could walk right by a pair of dirty socks on the floor and not notice them, even if the laundry basket was just a foot away. If the house was a mess, he’d say, ‘Write me a list, and I’ll do everything.’ But I resisted. Why should I have to write a list? He should know what needs to be done.”

My wife thought I was childish and immature. (And I AM childish and immature!) But there was always more going on. Over and over again I’d try to explain myself.

I would NEVER do this to you on purpose! Why would I want you angry with me? Why do you think I want to disappoint you? Why do you believe I want to fight with you?

There were so many things to do when our son was born. I was totally lost, and I wanted to be helpful. I wanted someone to tell me what to do, and then I would do it well and I’d be useful. She always felt like I was too hands-off. Like I wasn’t assertive enough to figure out on my own what needed done and just do it.

Maybe I was supposed to do that. Maybe I’m just making excuses. Maybe this is all bullshit.

But then I read this:

“The Whites, it turns out, are typical of couples in which at least one partner has ADHD. In a survey of such couples, conducted recently by Wayne State University in Detroit, respondents indicated that their spouses ‘don’t remember being told things,’ ‘zone out in conversations,’ ‘have trouble getting started on a task,’ ‘underestimate the time needed to complete a task,’ ‘don’t finish projects,’ and ‘leave a mess.’”

Is this me desperately searching for answers in an attempt to apply meaning to things that have happened to me?

I don’t think so.

If my ex-wife read all these ADHD stories I’ve been digesting the past week, I suspect she’d draw the same conclusion.

I have all these things I want to do with my life.

Career and relationship goals. Financial and physical goals. Social and spiritual goals.

What if this teeny little part of my brain working just a little bit different than most other people is the primary reason I have some of these issues?

What if it’s the reason my marriage ended?

What if it’s the answer to the ever-nagging question: WHY?

Treatment begins Thursday.

And maybe after things will never be the same.

Just maybe, I’ll be unstoppable.

27 thoughts on “ADHD is Real and I Have It”

  1. This is a huge breakthrough for you.

    I dislike labels. But I saw so many characteristics in my son that weren’t like the other kids. I thought he was just more spirited, defiant and intense. No impulse control. He lacked certain coping skills. I kept telling myself he’s just a “boy,” he’s extremely bright and energetic.

    And all of what I told myself may well be true. But when every morning turned into a struggle to get him ready for school, where I was exhausted by 8 am; when a lot of his behavior was making life difficult for BOTH of us- I decided to listen to the diagnoses. ADHD, type 2. Impulse control issues.

    I haven’t medicated him yet. It remains an option, but I didn’t feel comfortable administering medicine to him at 5. I might, for middle school. But we treated it other ways. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, and diet and martial arts and a structured routine. And as long as he thrived in school, it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t want to medicate him to make MY life easier.

    It’s a huge relief when you realize that these things are treatable, isn’t it? I’m so glad you discovered it.

    It makes sense. Very brilliant people often have ADHD. 🙂


    1. I feel exactly the same about drugging my son. No chance. Maybe someday.

      In the meantime, I agree that this is a major thing for me. If I can find a way to maintain all of the things I like about myself, while eliminating some of the shittier things, life could get awesome, and that would be a very cool thing.

      It is a huge relief. Something about this inspires me with hope. Like maybe this can help get me to the next level in all these areas of life I’m trying to improve.

      Time will tell. I’ll keep writing about it.

      Thank you for reading and saying hi. xo

      1. we used…or more correctly, nate’s mother did use a drug but only on school days…he was smart but head strong…his classic long, ‘you ain’t my daddy/momma…’, yep made it hard…BUT, you know he was a awesome kid and we miss him so very much…he would’ve been 15 this year…cancer f-ing sux…hug your babies and guide them…use the drugs if needed…because at a certain age the school don’t care…and police brutality is very real…they don’t put on special gloves for ADHD…they just keep beating until they get what they want…sorry for the rant…we hated the drugs too…live long and prosper

      2. I have ADHD. And am on the autism spectrum. And I’m a wife and a mother and I’m the designated organizer and planner. Let’s all laugh together.

        I have to have routines. I have to have rules for how things work, otherwise it all goes to hell. My keys are physically attached to my purse. My purse has a place it lives at home and in the car and even at my mom’s house, there’s a spot where I always put my purse. My phone is in one of three places at any given time.

        I make a lot of lists. I make meal plans five weeks at a time. I have routines that are not to be broken. Not only do they make my anxiety spike (hello autism) but they’re all there for a reason.
        in a way, the ADHD diagnosis helped. I don’t have to be normal. I can make lists for two items at the grocery store. And what I have to take to Mom’s to fix Sunday dinner. And what to take to the ball park for Kid’s game. I can pause and write everything down, because I know I’ll forget.

        Two of my three sons have ADHD. The one currently in college is figuring out that attaching your keys to the bag that goes out the door with you is probably the safest move. This is the third time he’s lost them in two months. (wry grin) It takes time, but routines and similar strategies are how we cope.

  2. Good luck to you. It sounds like you are meeting with a professional about this soon. That’s a great, and important, first step.
    (Now, having read your post, I wonder if I have ADHD too!!)

    1. I have an appointment Thursday. I am looking forward to formulating a strategy for moving forward.

      Thank you for the well wishes! (If it’s not holding you back, who cares!? If it is… maybe you can feel hopeful, too, about finding answers to: Why?)

  3. completelyinthedark

    Knowledge is power, brother. When a depressive episode threatens to undermine my ability to do things, I don’t get fearful, I get angry and then get help. Depression thrives on isolation, lack of sleep, nourishment and exercise. Nowadays I fucking fight back. I saw how it took down my mother.

    1. Totally agree. Self-awareness is empowering. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens next. Thanks for being supportive, Mike.

  4. Frans van Rossum

    I don’t know you, Matt, except from reading your blogs with the greatest appreciation. So exasperatingly human.
    Today you make me feel happy, you make my day because I am happy for you.
    Wishing you all best with moving forward through this treatment. godspeed!
    Be unstoppable!

    1. Hi Frans. I really liked this comment. It suggests you’ve read for a while, and decided to comment for the first time just to offer a few encouraging words.

      I appreciate them very much. Thank you!

  5. themaritaldivide

    It is a very select club. The way I always made myself feel better is that usually very intelligent people wind up having ADHD. Not sure why that is, but perhaps it’s lack of intellectual stimulation in the daily routine.

    1. I saw something great when I was looking for an appropriate image for this post. It was a note written by an ADHDer, and it said: “I think more thoughts before breakfast than most people do in an entire day.”

      And I think that’s probably true. It never shuts off.

      Makes life exhausting at times. But I’m glad that my wheels are always turning.

      Thank you for the note!

  6. Welcome to that wonderful moment when it becomes clear that there IS a reason for all the behavior you’ve never been able to explain, even to yourself. I wish you all the best with your diagnosis/treatment. I do hope things get better from here for you. ADHD is still not an easy road (at least all the time) but knowledge is half the battle. Good luck!

    1. You get it EXACTLY. Thank you. I love making discoveries. I love solving puzzles. And that’s precisely what this experience has been, and now I feel extraordinarily hopeful and excited about what’s coming.

  7. I have ADHD too. 🙂 It’s hard for me to sit and stick with things that I do. I change email every so often (sad but true)

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  12. Wow, I checked yes to all but 5. I have suspected for some time now that I have ADHD. The amazing thing while reading this is I was thinking and envisioning multiple things at the same time yet still reading and I kept getting distracted thereby having to re-read lines or sentences to digest and absorb. I do that so often. That must be my tendency to force-push things to my long-term memory bank. It’s an obsession I have. But then again.. awe crap,just forgot what I was going to say. AND, it was important. See that’s the distractions taking over again. Oh now I remember.. I was going to say that it’s all about timing for me and if pressed for time I leap into the future. If not pressed for time I slowly absorb material. Another obsession. For some reason I feel the need to look at the clock time and do an odd calculation in my head believing that it aids in pushing information/events etc., to long-term memory. It’s an aid for me I guess. How strange I am!

    OK, I just re-read what I wrote here and I’m now thinking, and I’m fairly certain, that it’s probably going to be obvious to anyone reading this that I most definitely have ADHD and that possibly none of what I just typed here makes any sense.

  13. Earlier today, you had me at shitty husband, again @ James Altucher and now adhd. Reading for hours comes easy but staying focused long enough to create an account on WP, monumental. Looking forward to reading everything else you’ve written. Sincerely, GG

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Matt Fray

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